Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here: http://secondward.blogspot.com/2006/05/disclaimer.html#links

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Traffic Calming Event

Congratulations to the Longfellow Community Council and Seward Neighborhood Group on an enormously successful Share the Road event last Friday.

To see pictures of the community in action, go here, here, and here. There's also a description of and discussion about the event on the Star Tribune's "Road Guy" blog.

Thanks to everyone who participated, especially LCC staff Jessica Hayssen, SNG staff Bernie Weibel, and Second Ward Cooper neighborhood resident activist Gary Hendlin. Thanks also to Bob Works from MNDOT's Share the Road program, County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, my colleague Council Member Gary Schiff, Park Commissioner Scott Vreeland, the Hub Bike Coop for the great bike-powered smoothies and the Greenway Coalition.

It was a great event, and I believe we raised the consciousness of a large number of drivers, who will hopefully now think twice before speeding, failing to stop at crosswalks and cutting of bicyclists. Good work, everyone!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Media Coverage of the New Financing Program

For more on the recent "reba-free" financing program you can check out coverage on Minnesota Public Radio, as well as in the Star Tribune, Mshale newspapers. It was also covered in USINFO, the international news bureau of the U.S. State Department.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Roundtable Reminder - the Future of our Schools

The Minneapolis School Board has voted to close six neighborhood schools, including Tuttle School in Southeast Como. The bulk of the Tuttle program will be merged with Pratt School in Prospect Park.

I will be holding a roundtable discussion on the future of our schools, Monday, April 16, 7-9pm, Van Cleve Park, 901 15th Ave SE.

The discussion will be open and the meeting will offer a chance for all of us to debrief and share our feelings and thoughts about the recent decision and the intensity of the past few weeks.

I also hope we can begin to address questions about the future. How can we, as a community, prepare for the closing of Tuttle? How can the facility remain a strong, healthy community asset for the Como neighborhood? Are there ways we can make sure it continues to serve children and families? Could it potentially be reused as a school outside of the Minneapolis Public School system?

How can I, as a City Council Member, participate most effectively in responding to this blow to the community and postively influence what happens next?

How can we, as a commuity, do more to support each other, across jurisdictions and across neighborhood boundaries, to strengthen our schools and all our community assets that serve children and families?

We will be joined by representatives of District Parent Advisory Council Area B Kate Towle and Craig Nelson, who probably know and care about our schools as much as anyone in the community. District Councils are groups pulled together to provide parents and community members an opportunity to express their opinions and concerns with one another, as well as with district staff. Area B covers Central, Longfellow, Near North, Nokomis, Phillips, Powderhorn and University neighborhoods.

While Tuttle is not actually in Ward 2, but in Ward 1, this is certainly a matter of concern to the entire Southeast community as well as the larger community. There are three Minneapolis Public Schools in Ward 2: Pratt Elementary, Seward Montessori, and Sullivan Communication Center.

The meeting is open to everyone. Please spread the word.


I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Lurking" in Spokesman-Recorder

The Spokesman-Recorder has run an article on the "lurking" ordinance repeal effort.

Interesting quotes from my colleague Don Samuels: “The whole intent factor might be giving too much discretion to the officers," and “Tests show that pretty much all Americans across all races tend to give White people a pass on the appearance factor… So giving people, in this case police officers, the power to decide what the intent of someone is when their behavior is actually a passive behavior — it might be putting too much decision-making in the hands of any one person.”

Interesting quotes as well from Ralph Remington: “I think that the intent behind those who want to remove the lurking ordinance is noble, but it doesn’t have any teeth.”

We also see some of the arguments used by the Police Department (said by Lt. Amelia Huffman): “Many of the most deeply impacted neighborhoods in the city, those crime victims are also African Americans. Certainly it’s something that, like the other ordinances that we use in the Minnesota, we would want to apply to keep all of our residences in Minneapolis safe.”

However, if you look at the data on "lurking" arrests in Minneapolis, they don't happen in the "most deeply impacted neighborhoods in the city." In 2006, 41 people were cited for "lurking" in the Seventh Ward (primarily Downtown), more than twice the number of people cited in any other Ward. Interestingly, the Second Ward saw the second-most "lurking" citations last year, with 18, many of which were on the East Bank.

New Reba-Free Loan Program

This morning I gladly participated in a press conference at Karmel Mall near 29th and Pillsbury where the City announced a new alternative loan program for Minneapolis small business owners.

It was a good opportunity to celebrate a relatively small program that offers great potential for supporting small businesses, particularly those who don’t want to use conventional loans that charge interest. This has been a problem for some Muslim business owners whose religious practices restrict them from using traditional interest-based financing. It is being done in partnership with the

Monday, April 09, 2007

McMansions

I am basically supportive of my colleague Betsy Hodges' effort to better regulate teardowns and 'McMansions,' or new large-scale homes being built especially in Southwest Minneapolis. See the Star Tribune article here. This is a good idea not only for neighborhood character but for sustainability: larger houses use significantly more energy, especially to heat and cool, and construction waste accounts for 40% of total landfill volume.

Here's a cliff's notes version of the proposed changes:

1) Habitable space within a new home can equal no more than 50% of the total lot area. So if you have a standard 5,000 square foot City lot, you can have no more than 2,500 square feet of habitable indoor space. The reason for this is that a new house can be built to the letter of every existing ordinance (front, side and rear setbacks, height restrictions, etc), and still be mammoth, dwarfing its neighbors and substantially altering neighborhood character.

2) Single family homes will be limited to a height of 30 feet, down from 35 feet in the existing code.

3) Property owners will only be allowed to cover 65% of a lot with impervious surface, down from the 75% in existing code. This is important for storm water management, as well as preserving greenspace in the City.


I understand that these changes have been inspired by McMansions in Southwest. There is a bit of concern about this in Seward, mostly preventative ("how can we keep teardowns and McMansions from happening here?"). But the most significant effect of the proposed changes in Ward 2 will be in Southeast, specifically in Southeast Como.

In Como, we have seen absentee landlords purchase existing single family homes, rent them to students for several years while doing little to no maintenance, then tear them down and replace them with the largest "single family" home they can, with as many bedrooms as will legally fit. In other words, where Southwest Minneapolis has 'McMansions,' Southeast Minneapolis has 'McDorms.' The Floor Area Ratio proposed by CM Hodges will help us address this by limiting the amount of habitable square footage.

I am looking at possibly proposing some changes to the Hodges proposal to make this an even better tool for Southeast. I've noted that it makes specific exemptions for habitable basements and attics. This makes sense in Southwest, where basements tend to be rec rooms or dens. In Southeast, however, basements and attics are very quickly carved up into bedrooms. I'm looking at making the basement/attic exemptions contingent on these spaces not being used as sleeping rooms, as defined in the Housing Maintenance code.

Comprehensive Plan meetings

The Minneapolis Planning Department will be holding three community meetings to discuss the process for updating the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan:

- Saturday, April 28, 10:00 a.m. to noonMinneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall

- Tuesday, May 1, 7:00-9:00 p.m.Midtown YWCA, 2121 East Lake St., near Hiawatha

- Thursday, May 17, 4:00-6:00 p.m.Capri Theater, 2210 Oliver Ave. North, at Broadway

For more information on these meetings, go here. For FAQs about the Comprehensive Plan and the process to update it, go here.